76/00 23 May 2000




The Radio Authority has today (23 May) published the details of the Bridgwater local licence award made to BCR fm Ltd. The Authority awarded the licence on 11 May 2000.

A copy of the full assessment is attached.



The Radio Authority is responsible for licensing and regulating independent radio in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996. It plans frequencies, awards licences, regulates programming and advertising, and plays an active role in the discussion and formulation of policies which affect the Independent Radio industry and its listeners.




Applications were invited on 7 September 1999. By the closing date of 21 December 1999, four applications were received, as follows:

BCR fm Ltd.

Bridge FM Ltd.

Riverside Radio (Mr Ian Cunningham)

Sedgemoor Coast FM Ltd.

The licence was awarded to BCR fm Ltd., to run for eight years from the date the service commences broadcasting.

Assessment of the winning application

Although Bridgwater is a relatively small licence area, there was a remarkably high level of interest in operating a service in this area, and the general quality of the proposals submitted by the applicants presented the Authority Members with a particularly difficult decision on this occasion.

Members were impressed with BCR fm’s preparation for this application, and with the group’s enthusiasm for its community. The group has operated a total of six trial broadcasts in the area since 1996, under the Authority’s restricted service licence (RSL) scheme, and consequently has developed a substantial volunteer base. BCR fm has been active in Bridgwater in promotional and charity activities, and was able to demonstrate a high level of local support for its application.

Members thought that the group had formed a board which effectively combined radio expertise and business experience with genuine local connections. BCR fm has two large corporate investors: Chrysalis Radio, which has a developing involvement in small-scale local stations, and Newscom, the owners of the local newspaper, The Mercury. Members felt that both of these organisations had the appropriate resources and expertise to help BCR fm to operate successfully as a stand-alone station. The station will be housed in the Bridgwater Mercury’s building, and the group will have access to the newspaper’s database of news stories to enhance its own newsroom resources. Chrysalis will provide extra staff, including a launch director, to support the station staff during the initial launch period.

BCR fm will broadcast an entirely locally produced and presented service. It will target the over-25’s audience with music-based programmes of broad appeal, punctuated by highly focused speech content, comprising between 15%

and 30% of daytime output. The music content has been described as a ‘traditional adult contemporary style’, including tracks from the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s

Background to award

When licensing Independent Radio services, it is the duty of the Authority under the Broadcasting Act 1990 ("the Act") to do all that it can to secure the provision within the UK of a range and diversity of local services (section 85(2)(b) of the Act). Furthermore, under section 85(3) of the Act the Authority must discharge its functions in the manner which it considers is best calculated to:

(a) facilitate the provision of licensed services which (taken as a whole) are of high quality and offer a wide range of programmes calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests; and

(b) ensure fair and effective competition in the provision of such services and services connected with them.

Under section 105 of the Act, the matters to which the Authority shall have regard when determining whether, or to whom, to grant a local licence are:

(a) the ability of each applicant to maintain the proposed service throughout the licence period;

(b) the extent to which the proposed service would cater for the tastes and interests of persons living in the area or locality for which the service would be provided, and, where it is proposed to cater for any particular tastes and interests of such persons, the extent to which the service would so cater;

(c) the extent to which the proposed service would broaden the range of programmes available by way of local services to persons living in the relevant area or locality, and, in particular, the extent to which the service would cater for tastes and interests which are different from those already catered for by existing local services in the area; and

(d) the extent to which any application is supported by persons living in that area.

While the requirements of sections 85 and 105 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 will invariably form the basis of all awards, each licence award will be made on an individual basis, with regard to the factors which, in the view of the Authority, are particularly relevant to that case.

When it advertised the availability of the Bridgwater local licence the Authority invited public comment on the local radio needs of listeners in this area, and the type

of programme service required. Copies of the non-confidential sections of the

applications were made available for public inspection in Bridgwater public library

and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 21 December 1999 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.

All of the applications have been considered carefully by the Authority in accordance with the Act, and as against the advertised criteria set out in the Authority’s Notes of Guidance for Local Licence Applicants and the coverage brief for this licence, issued at the date of the licence advertisement. The applicants were invited to respond to written questions on programming, audience and support, and finance. Telephone interviews were conducted on the composition and history of the applicant groups.